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Tuesday, June 27, 2017

RTM’s Flug to Take Over as Assistant Town Attorney

Eileen Lavigne Flug, moderator of Westport Representative’s Town Meeting (RTM), for almost four years, will be appointed assistant town attorney in August, replacing Gail Kelly who is leaving that post at the end of July, First Selectman Jim Marpe and Town Attorney Ira Bloom announced today.

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Eileen Flug:: “a great honor.”Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

Flug’s appointment comes as she joins the firm Berchem, Moses & Devlin, P.C. as senior counsel. Most recently she has been with Cohen & Wolf, P.C.

“I am very pleased to appoint Eileen Lavigne Flug as the new assistant town attorney beginning in August,” said Marpe. “Eileen is widely respected in town, has an excellent understanding of town government, and has a distinguished legal background.

“We have had the opportunity to work together closely during the past three-and-a-half years in our respective town leadership roles, so I know that she will add tremendous value to the town through her new responsibilities,” he added.

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06/27/17 04:53 PM Comments () • Permalink

Touring the Center for Senior Activities

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In advance of a Representative Town Meeting (RTM) approval vote July 11 for funds to expand and enhance the Westport Center for Senior Activities (WCSA), RTM members and others today toured the facility and nearby grounds. Sue Pfister (foreground), executive director of WCSA, led the tour. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

   

06/27/17 11:34 AM Comments () • Permalink

House, Senate Democrats Unable to Agree on Provisional Budget

By Keith M. Phaneuf

www.ctmirror.org

Connecticut’s prospects of enacting a state budget — even a provisional one — before the new fiscal year begins July 1 appeared to slip away late Monday night as House and Senate Democrats were unable to agree on a path forward.

After closed-door talks between House and Senate Democrats bogged down over several issues, including a potential sales tax hike and labor concessions, House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz of Berlin, notified his fellow Democrats they should not expect to vote on a provisional budget Thursday.

The speaker had asked Democrats, who hold a slim 79-72 edge in the House, to hold open Thursday for a possible budget vote.

Aresimowicz refused to discuss details of the negotiations, but he confirmed today that he doesn’t anticipate a budget vote at this time.

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06/27/17 11:15 AM Comments () • Permalink

Monday, June 26, 2017

Malloy Proposes $300M in New Revenue

By Keith M. Phaneuf, Mark Pazniokas, Kyle Constable, and Jacqueline Rabe Thomas

www.ctmirror.org

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy today asked legislators to consider nearly $320 million in revenue increases to mitigate the massive cuts he would be forced to impose if Connecticut enters the new fiscal year Saturday without a budget.

But even if those steps are taken, Malloy outlined deep cuts to municipal aid, social services, hospitals, and public colleges and universities that would occur if he had to run the upcoming fiscal year by executive order.

“Connecticut can and will adopt a responsible, balanced budget for the coming biennium – the question is how best to handle our finances until that happens,” Malloy said.

“I am prepared to operate government in the absence of a budget, but it has never been my preference to do so.”

 

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06/26/17 02:55 PM Comments () • Permalink

Malloy, Unions Agree on Sending Tentative Concessions to a Vote

By Keith M. Phaneuf

www.ctmirror.org

A tentative concessions framework between Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and state employee unions took a step forward today with the news that all bargaining units have agreed to submit the proposed concessions to a vote by rank-and-file members.

Ballots are expect to be cast in mid- or late July.

“The agreement by the unions to move forward with a tentative contract that could save the state more than $24 billion is a promising step, clearly demonstrating that they want to be part of the solution to putting the state in a better and more stable financial position,” Malloy said.

The concessions, projected to be worth $1.57 billion over the next two fiscal years, play a crucial role in separate plans developed by Malloy and Democratic legislative leaders to close large projected budget deficits.

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06/26/17 01:21 PM Comments () • Permalink

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Malloy: Even a Temporary CT Budget Must be Balanced

By Keith M. Phaneuf

www.ctmirror.org

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy had a warning today for legislators considering enacting a temporary budget to guide state finances after July 1 in lieu of the real thing.

Do it right or don’t do it at all.

The governor “will not consider any budget — short or long term, that adds to our fiscal challenges in the coming biennium,” Malloy spokeswoman Kelly Donnelly said.

With Connecticut just nine days away from entering the fiscal year without an approved spending plan — for the first time since 2009 and just the second time in 15 years — gridlocked legislators are seeking to buy more time to craft the next two-year budget.

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06/22/17 10:11 PM Comments () • Permalink

Monday, June 19, 2017

Cities, Towns Ask State Leaders in TV Ad, ‘Are You Listening?’

By Keith M. Phaneuf

www.ctmirror.org

The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities is pressing state officials to deliver a budget that protects cities and towns, unveiling a television commercial today that suggests the legislature’s inaction could cost people their homes.

The 30-second spot, which will air through the rest of the month on network affiliates and Cable News 12 in Fairfield County, urges officials to revisit a state budget stabilization plan local leaders developed back in January.

The ad mingles concerns raised by unnamed home and business owners with responses from municipal leaders, who drew contrasts of responsive local officials with deadlocked legislators.

“High property taxes are going to cause me to lose my home,” one woman says as the ad opens. A second asks “Why can’t government be more efficient?”

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06/19/17 01:03 PM Comments () • Permalink

Ted Diamond Still Going Strong As He Nears 100

By James Lomuscio

Westporter Ted Diamond, who turns 100 on July 3, could have been a prototype for George Bailey in Frank Capra’s “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

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Ted Diamond: “I hope to keep going.” (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

Patriotism, devotion to his lifelong sweetheart Carol, his wife for almost 71 years, as well as his love of family, friends, the house they bought in 1955 and his hometown comprise a rich story. It is so rich it is nearly impossible to know where to begin.

It could begin with Diamond, a 1941 graduate of Columbia University’s School of Law, forgoing a desk job to serve as a U.S. Army Air Corps navigator. He led 50 bombing missions against the Nazis, cheating death each time while others did not.

Or perhaps it is Diamond in the late 1960s. He rallied support with local editor Jo Fox to stop a planned nuclear power plant on Cockenoe Island accessible via a planned causeway from Westport’s Saugatuck Shores.

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06/19/17 10:15 AM Comments () • Permalink

Friday, June 16, 2017

Republicans Honor Marpe

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Westport First Selectman Jim Marpe receives the Excellence in Leadership Award at tonight’s Westport Republican Town Committee (RTC) Spring Gala. Also honored were Westport Board of Education Vice-Chair Jeannie Smith and former Westport RTC Chairman Pete Wolgast. Pictured with Marpe are Selectman Avi Kaner, RTC Chair Tim Wetmore, and Board of Finance member Jen Tooker. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Contributed photo

   

06/16/17 10:36 PM Comments () • Permalink

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Melissa Kane Seeks Dem Nomination for First Selectman

By James Lomuscio

Representative Town Meeting (RTM) member Melissa Kane announced today that she is seeking the Democratic nomination to run for Westport’s first selectman in November.

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Melissa Kane: “I love Westport.” Dave Matlow/WN file photo

“I am very, very honored to be announcing that I am putting my hat in the ring,” said Kane, who has filed with the Connecticut Election Enforcement Committee. “Many, many people have reached out to me and asked me to run.”

The Democratic Town Committee (DTC) will have its formal nominating process July 18. 

State Rep. Jonathan Steinberg, who is in his fourth term, ended his exploratory committee for first selectman on June 1 in order to remain focused on the state, which he said “is going through very, very tough times.”

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06/15/17 02:09 PM Comments () • Permalink

Without a CT Budget by July 1, the Options Are All Bad

By Keith M. Phaneuf

www.ctmirror.org

For more than 100 years, Connecticut has periodically grappled with what to do when the fiscal year begins and a new budget is not in place to greet it.

But with just 15 days left in the outgoing fiscal year — and a $2.3 billion deficit looming after that — gridlocked legislators’ inability to adopt a new budget has huge repercussions across a wide spectrum.

Big question marks already hang over some social services for children, the poor and disabled, as well as certain aid to cities and towns.

And Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who has warned legislators for several weeks now not to force him to run the state without a new budget in place, already has said he considers that option a “worst-case scenario,” and that legislators should as well.

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06/15/17 01:11 PM Comments () • Permalink

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

CT Lawmakers React in Horror to Shootings at GOP Baseball Practice

By Ana Radelat

www.ctmirror.org

Washington – Connecticut lawmakers, for whom gun violence has a personal edge because of the Newtown shootings, reacted with shock and horror at a gunman’s attack on a Republican congressional baseball practice early today.

When he learned of the attack at a field in Northern Virginia, Sen. Chris Murphy, who plays as the catcher on the Democratic baseball team, tweeted “Oh my God.” The Democrats were practicing for the annual, bipartisan congressional baseball game at Gaulladet University, a school for the deaf in Washington, D.C.

Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., the House majority whip, was among those shot by the gunman, who was identified as James Hodgkinson of Illinois.

President Donald Trump announced that the alleged gunman is dead.

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06/14/17 01:57 PM Comments () • Permalink

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Budget Talks Testy as Deadline Inches Closer

By Kyle Constable

www.ctmirror.org

Talks between Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and legislative leaders are growing testy as Connecticut inches closer to a June 30 deadline to craft a budget for the next two fiscal years.

The tension was on full display today. After an hourlong budget meeting with the governor, four top lawmakers answered only a handful of questions outside Malloy’s office before all but one of them abruptly walked out of the news conference.

The only leader to remain was Senate Republican President Pro Tem Len Fasano, R-North Haven, and he painted a grim picture of the negotiations.

“My gut reaction is we are going to get past July 1” without a budget, Fasano said.

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06/13/17 12:33 PM Comments () • Permalink

Sunday, June 11, 2017

The Lineup of Dems for Governor

By Kyle Constable

www.ctmirror.org

There is little consensus in the General Assembly on how to craft the next two-year state budget even through the legislature adjourned its regular session last Wednesday.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, at a news conference Thursday, did not offer any direction to state lawmakers in the budget-making process beyond threatening to veto the existing Democratic and Republican proposals. He declined to state specific proposals that qualify as “make-or-break” issues for him.

Malloy’s would-be replacements on the Democratic side, however, were not as hesitant – though they understood why he might be.

At the Connecticut Democratic Party’s annual dinner Saturday, the CT Mirror caught up with five major Democratic candidates who have declared or are exploring a run for governor in 2018. They are, in alphabetical order:

Click HERE for more of story

   

06/11/17 02:07 PM Comments () • Permalink

Thursday, June 08, 2017

Encouraging Women to Run for Public Office

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More than 100 persons tonight attended a fundraiser for Emerge America CT, which seeks to encourage more Democratic women to run for public office at all levels. The event took place at the home of Darcy Hicks (r), pictured with (l-r)  Lisa Bowman, Lauren Soloff, and Nita Prasad. All were organizers of a March 26 march in Westport to “defend Democracy” and Sunday’s candlelight vigil for climate protection on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Tyler Hicks for WestportNow.com

   

06/08/17 07:09 PM Comments () • Permalink

Backyard Fundraiser

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There was a Westport backyard fundraiser tonight for Emerge America CT, which seeks to encourage more Democratic women to run for public office at all levels. Hosts were Westporters Darcy Hicks, Lisa Bowman, Lauren Soloff, and Nita Prasad. It took pace at Hicks’ Harding Lane home and attracted more than 100 guests. The women were organizers of a March 26 march in Westport to “defend Democracy” and Sunday’s candlelight vigil for climate protection on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Tyler Hicks for WestportNow.com

   

06/08/17 07:04 PM Comments () • Permalink

Himes: ‘We Will Get to the Bottom of the Matter’

U.S. Rep. Jim Himes (D-4th District) said today that Former FBI DIrector James Comey’s testimony explained “in no uncertain terms” that Comey believes President Trump directed him to end an investigation into Michael Flynn.

Himes, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, vowed that in cooperation with the Senate and FBI, “We will get to the bottom of this matter.” Here is the text of the Himes statement:

“Former FBI Director Comey’s testimony in the open forum today provided more transparency and answers to the American public.

“In his testimony, he explained, in no uncertain terms, that he believes President Trump directed him to end the FBI investigation into Michael Flynn.

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06/08/17 03:59 PM Comments () • Permalink

Comey for Lunch

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Patrons at the 323 Restaurant, 323 Main St., today watch former FBI Director and former Westporter James Comey testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) WestportNow.com photo

   

06/08/17 12:33 PM Comments () • Permalink

Wins, Losses, and Bills Left for OT at the General Assembly

By CT Mirror Staff

www.ctmirror.org

The 2017 session of the Connecticut General Assembly ended at midnight Wednesday, leaving the usual list of wins, losses and unfinished business.

The biggest item left on the to-do list, of course, is the matter of a budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

Here’s a quick rundown of some of the bills that made it to the desk of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, are on hold until the budget is resolved or got sidetracked in the session that opened on Jan. 4 with a membership nearly evenly split between Democrats and Republicans.

Winners

Lockbox: The state is rapidly running out of money for transportation projects, but voters will get a chance next year to vote for a constitutional amendment that would segregate transportation funds in a lockbox. Malloy has demanded it go on the ballot before he considers new transportation funding sources, such as as tolls.

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06/08/17 09:20 AM Comments () • Permalink

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Himes: Comey Testimony ‘Paints a Detailed and Disturbing Picture’ of President

U.S. Rep Jim Himes (D-4th District) said today the release of former FBI Director James Comey’s testimony on Thursday before a Senate committee “paints a detailed and disturbing picture of a president obsessed with loyalty, secrecy, and exerting inappropriate pressure to achieve his goals.”

In a statement, Himes, who sits on the House Intelligence Committee, said: “At the very least, President Trump’s actions should instill a sense of profound worry in the American people about a leader with no sense of propriety or an understanding of the need for independence of law enforcement within the executive branch, an independence that has been respected by presidents for generations.

He said the testimony, in conjunction with Comey’s firing, also “raises the question of whether President Trump was improperly trying to end the investigation into ties between Russia and his campaign affiliates and administration.”

Himes continued: “Director Comey’s detailed recounting of his multiple meetings with President Trump, and his unusual documentation of those meetings, should have us all asking a fundamental question about whether we can trust this president to uphold and enforce the laws of the United States. It’s clear to me that Director Comey has been asking himself this very question.

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06/07/17 04:50 PM Comments () • Permalink

Bail Reform Wins Final Passage in Senate

By Mark Pazniokas and Keith M. Phaneuf

www.ctmirror.org

Bail reforms intended to ensure that indigent defendants are not jailed simply for lack of resources won final passage in the Senate early today on a 29 to 7 vote.

“I think this is an enlightened piece of legislation,” said Senate President Pro Tem Martin M. Looney, D-New Haven.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy proposed sweeping bail reforms that would have largely eliminated a role for bail bond agents, but settled for a compromise that won bipartisan support and acceptance from the bail industry.

“Reforming our criminal justice system is an issue with bipartisan support, and today’s vote by the state Senate reaffirms that,” Malloy said. “Across the nation, states are recognizing that the current system of bail is unconstitutional.”

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06/07/17 08:00 AM Comments () • Permalink

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Years Behind Other States, Rules for Uber, Lyft Win Final Passage

By Kyle Constable

www.ctmirror.org

The Senate voted 28-8 tonight to approve a bill that would make Connecticut one of the last states to impose standards on ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft.

The bill now heads to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy after facing what proved to be its last two close calls — a pair of Republican-backed amendments in the Senate.

With the legislature’s upper chamber evenly divided between Democratic and Republican members, both proposed amendments ended in a deadlock, leaving Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman to cast tiebreaking votes. She opposed both amendments, probably keeping the bill from stalling for another year.

Had the Republican amendments passed, the bill would have had to go back to the House of Representatives with little more than 24 hours remaining in the legislative session — a death sentence for most legislation.

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06/06/17 11:40 PM Comments () • Permalink

House Inches CT Closer to Tolls — But Stops Short

By Keith M. Phaneuf

www.ctmirror.org

The House of Representatives took two steps today — one legal and one symbolic — to move Connecticut slightly closer to the imposition of tolls on its highways.

The House narrowly approved a resolution to establish a constitutional “lockbox” amendment to safeguard revenues earmarked for transportation. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has said he would not consider any discussion of tolls unless a lockbox amendment is sent before voters on the 2018 statewide ballot.

The House also debated a bill directing the Department of Transportation to craft a plan to establish tolls. But it tabled the measure — in a prearranged, bipartisan deal — after 110 minutes of debate.

The question of tolling is not expected to be taken up again before the regular 2017 General Assembly adjourns Wednesday, though some supporters hope it will remain in talks during the summer special session to resolve the next two-year state budget.

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06/06/17 04:27 PM Comments () • Permalink

Analyses Show Concessions Would Save $24B Over Two Decades

By Keith M. Phaneuf

www.ctmirror.org

The tentative concessions framework struck by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and state employee union leaders would save $4.8 billion over the next five years and $24.1 billion over the next two decades, according to analyses prepared by the administration, Connecticut pension actuaries and its healthcare consultant.

If the concessions deal is ratified, the $1.57 billion annual contribution to the state employees’ pension would rise steadily and peak at just under $1.9 billion in 2022. It would remain at that level through 2031, according to a pension analysis by Cavanaugh Macdonald Consulting of Kennesaw, Ga.

That’s $460 million less than the peak payment Connecticut otherwise would face based on the restructured pension schedule Malloy and unions agreed to back in January.

Connecticut’s worst-funded benefit program — retirement health care — would see its long-term, unfunded liability shrink by one-quarter dropping from $20.9 billion to $15.6 billion, according to an analysis prepared by Segal Consulting of Farmington.

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06/06/17 12:48 PM Comments () • Permalink

Monday, June 05, 2017

Looking at Police Use of Force from Across a Racial Divide

By Mark Pazniokas

www.ctmirror.org

A debate today over the police use of force laid bare partisan, racial and geographic divisions in the Connecticut House, where black and Puerto Rican Democrats united behind a bill whose very title, An Act Concerning Police Misconduct, was branded an insult to law enforcement by the House Republican leader.

As originally drafted, the bill would have required the state Division of Criminal Justice to make a preliminary decision within five days if a use of force by police was justified. If deemed inappropriate by a preponderance of the evidence, the officer would be immediately suspended without pay pending a full investigation.

The Black and Puerto Rican caucus convinced House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, to open a debate on a much-narrowed bill that focused on fatal police shootings at motor vehicles, an issue since Bridgeport police shot and killed 15-year-old Jayson Negron in a stolen car last month. Police said he threatened the officer with the car.

Negron was one of nearly 200 people killed since Jan. 1, 2015, according to a database compiled by the Washington Post, in what for decades has been one of the most controversial and oft-debated uses of deadly force: a police officer firing into a motor vehicle, a practice already tightly restricted by many of the nation’s police departments.

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06/05/17 10:47 PM Comments () • Permalink

Pot Legalization Measure Bogs Down in Partisan Feud

By Keith M. Phaneuf

www.ctmirror.org

The legislature provided the latest example from a dysfunctional session today as a bipartisan effort to legalize recreational marijuana broke down minutes before its public announcement.

Reps. Josh Elliott, D-Hamden, and Melissa Ziobron, R-East Haddam, engaged in an argument a few feet from the podium in the Legislative Office Building hearing room where a news conference was scheduled to make the announcement. After 10 minutes, Ziobron left and Elliott conceded the marijuana measure was stalled — but not dead.

“We were going to try to do that first thing,” Elliott told reporters. “I was not aware of all of the different moving pieces, so I did not include Melissa in the initial conversations … We’re trying to include her now.”

Ziobron said she didn’t get a copy of the marijuana legalization amendment until 9 a.m. today — one hour before the press conference — at which time she also learned Elliott and other Democrats had been crafting the measure since Friday.

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06/05/17 12:50 PM Comments () • Permalink

Saturday, June 03, 2017

House Passes Plan to Let Towns Adjust Tax Bills

By Keith M. Phaneuf

www.ctmirror.org

The House of Representatives today unanimously approved a bill to help cities and towns adjust their property tax bills as the state’s budget crisis plays out in the coming weeks or months.

The measure, which now heads to the Senate, would allow communities to more easily revise tax bills to reflect changes in state aid ordered later this year.

The product of a compromise between House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, and House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, the bill comes three months after another measure to offer communities budget flexibility bogged down in the Senate amid a partisan dispute.

The two leaders say they and their colleagues have been pressed constantly by municipal leaders for more guidance about how much aid their communities can expect from the state over the next two fiscal years.

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06/03/17 08:13 PM Comments () • Permalink

Friday, June 02, 2017

Connecticut Joins Alliance Committed to Paris Climate Accord

By Mark Pazniokas

www.ctmirror.org

Connecticut became one of the early states to rebuke President Trump’s disavowal of the Paris climate accord with a decision today by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy to join a fast-growing coalition of states, cities, businesses and universities intent on ensuring the U.S. still acts to reduce greenhouse gases.

Malloy, the chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, joins the Democratic governors of California, New York and Washington state in the United States Climate Alliance, a group quickly organized Thursday by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and others in the wake of Trump’s announcement the U.S. would stand apart from the world’s nations on the issue of climate change.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican who declined to support Trump or attend the Republican National Convention, signed on later today, according to the Boston Globe.

The decision was an easy one for a governor in Connecticut, a state with a long history of bipartisan support of efforts to reduce greenhouse gases. Gina McCarthy, a top advisor to the Obama administration on the issue, was the state’s top environmental regulator under Malloy’s predecessor, Republican M. Jodi Rell.

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06/02/17 08:06 PM Comments () • Permalink

Is 2017 CT Legislature on the Brink of Gridlock?

By Keith M. Phaneuf

www.ctmirror.org

The 2017 legislative session teetered on the brink of gridlock today as House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz accused Republicans of unfairly dodging all tough choices amid a huge state budget crisis.

And while Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, did not say majority House Democrats would block GOP bills, he reflected on that option as one of the few alternatives to stop Republican political posturing.

“It’s hard for me right now to go out there and … run bills that will allow people to move forward their proposals and their goals while my caucus continues — continues — to sacrifice things they care about for the greater good of the state but there’s no accountability on the other side,” the speaker said during a news conference in his Capitol office.

He made his comments after House Democrats failed Wednesday and Thursday to take up a bill to establish tolls — something Democratic leaders said was impossible because House Republicans offered virtually no support.

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06/02/17 07:26 PM Comments () • Permalink

Thursday, June 01, 2017

With GOP Opposed, Tolls Stall in Divided House

By Mark Pazniokas

www.ctmirror.org

By taking up the issue of highway tolls late in the session and linking it to the state’s desperate need for revenue, the House Democratic majority has muddied a complex public-policy debate over how Connecticut might maintain crumbling infrastructure as its Special Transportation Fund staggers towards insolvency.

The House adjourned for a second consecutive day today without an expected vote on a bill authorizing the Department of Transportation to implement a system of electronic tolls, a concession to the difficulty of tackling major controversial issues without bipartisan support in a closely divided General Assembly.

Transportation Commissioner James P. Redeker and his chief of policy and planning, Thomas J. Maziarz, spent an hour briefing House Republicans on changing federal policy that allows the state to establish tolls on interstate highways as part of a pilot program to provide much-needed funding for infrastructure and to test how congestion pricing can change driving habits.

Their explanation of how tolls could be implemented did not overcome the GOP’s objections to a plan by Democrats to effectively borrow against the new revenue stream to help close a budget gap — even if the first toll might not be collected for another three or four years.

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06/01/17 08:47 PM Comments () • Permalink

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